Playing Hockey as Who I Was Meant to Be: Jessica Platt

It’s been a big year for Canadian Woman’s Hockey League (CWHL) player Jessica Platt.

In January she announced through her Instagram that she is transgender – making her the first openly transgender hockey player for the CWHL.

Though the NHL doesn’t have the best reputation regarding a proactive approach to inclusion even despite recent initiatives like the Everyone Can Play campaign (that has come with it’s own speed-bumps), Jessica Platt’s experience with the women’s hockey community has been nothing but positive. We caught up with her to discuss inclusivity in sports and what she wants people to know about transgender rights.

What have the responses been from your fans and the hockey community since your announcement?
The CWHL, the entire women’s hockey community and the fans have been amazing. Nothing has changed for them. I’m still a hockey player first and for most.

What do you think makes the women’s hockey community so accepting?
I think it might be that in women’s hockey everyone has battled through their own adversity simply just to play hockey. Most people are put in figure skating when they are little and have to beg their parents to put them in hockey like their brothers. I think in battling through that adversity they’re more open to understanding the adversity LGBTQ athletes have been going through. Women’s hockey hasn’t always been in the forefront. Even the women/people who have played in men’s leagues have been pushed into their own separate locker room. Some women’s hockey players who have been around since the beginning have stories of given a storage locker room to change in.

Do you feel that sports leagues like the NHL, that are traditionally legacy institutions, are doing enough to be inclusive of diversity?
I think that the “Hockey is For Everybody” campaign is a great start, but there is always room to move forward. While they are promoting inclusivity, it’s not always the case. Where they go from here will say a lot.

What has been the best part about deciding to come forward as transgender?
The best part so far has been messages I’ve gotten from people. A woman with a 12 year-old transgender daughter reached out to me, who said her daughter saw me on TV and told her, “Jessica Platt is the first trans-gender CWHL player and I want to be the second!” Hearing about the positive impact I’ve been able to have has been incredible.

What would you like to say to athletes in general about inclusivity in 2018?
I think we’ve come a long way lately, but there is always space to move forward. I know it’s not always easy. I was lucky that I am in the women’s hockey community. A lot of other sports and leagues can learn from the CWHL and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). I think everyone can learn acceptance, understand and be open to learning.

You gave up playing hockey in your teens because you didn’t feel comfortable “in hockey culture”. How has your perspective changed since then? Do you think Hockey culture has evolved?
I do think hockey culture has evolved somewhat. I took a 7-8 year break so in that time of course things change. Personally my relationship with hockey has changed. It’s stayed the same in that it’s always been my passion and what I love to do, but being able to play it as who I was meant to be has been completely amazing. I have nothing to hide and no worries. I’m happy and confident and not struggling through the things I was struggling with before. Everyone has their own issues, I did to. At that time I didn’t have any motivation to work out or train for hockey. I feel extremely motivated now, and accepted. I can just play hockey and do my best and just be part of the team.

What do you say to the people who claim you have an “advantage” over other women in the CWHL?
I don’t want people to think I have an unfair advantage in sports because of how I was born. I work incredibly hard to be where I am and don’t want that to be discounted. I have practice twice a week, workout once a week with the team, games twice a week, and I’m at the gym every other day. Sometimes I take day off but usually there is something happening every day. I’m constantly working. 

You’ve said that some of the negative comments you’ve received are a result of people being uneducated regarding transgender people. What’s something important you think everyone needs to hear on this topic?
Transgender people are people too. At the end of the day, we’re all human. We deserve respect and to be treated with dignity. There’s nothing different from me besides how I grew up. And I’m still a person. I want to make a difference in the world and do the best that I can at everything I do.

What advice do you have for other LGBTQ athletes who might be struggling with their identity?
Life can be hard. You’re not always dealt the best hand. I set myself small, achievable goals, so I could really see and feel like I was achieving something. Try to have a plan and work hard and stay positive. Things can get hard but you can come out on the other side and you can have more happiness than you ever thought was possible.

Answers have been edited and cut down for length.